Two years of Pope Francis
Pope Francis's modest lifestyle and criticism of the workings of the Catholic Church have garnered him a lot of praise since he took office two years ago. Looking back, some journalists commend his courage in tackling the Vatican's rigid power structures. Others fear that his reforms will be no more than a flash in the pan and that the Church will continue to lose touch with its believers.
His modesty is revolutionary
It is Pope Francis's unassuming and down-to-earth manner that makes him a revolutionary reviver of the Catholic Church, the conservative daily La Vanguardia comments: "From the very beginning he aimed to send the message of simplicity: he refused his apartments at the Vatican to live in Santa Marta. He rejected an official car, preferring to use a second-hand Fiat. And he even declined shoes made specially for him in Rome in favour of his worn-out shoes from Buenos Aires. Some may call this a break with the past, others talk of idiosyncrasies. But ever since he took office two years ago the Pope has cut a very modern figure, far removed from the traditional courtly style and in direct contact with the people. So unassuming in every way that it seems revolutionary."
Pope's words must be turned into deeds
The Church has yet to provide its followers with answers to the realities of life, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung complains and calls for Francis to introduce long overdue reforms: "When the pontiff, who has been in office for two years now, voices an opinion, he doesn't always seem to have weighed up every word beforehand or to be acting in the interest of papal theologies. Such statements are warmly welcomed by the media but sometimes they also take the focus off important projects that Francis needs to push forward now. The German Cardinal Walter Kaspar, who clearly thinks highly of the pope, explained recently that Francis doesn't want to take up positions but to set processes in motion. ... Many Catholics are still painfully waiting for the Church to provide a response to the concrete realities of life nowadays. Francis must show that he's serious when he talks about the compassion of the 'Lord's strongest message'. The charismatic Jesuit needs to turn his words into deeds."
If Francis fails so will the Church
The Curia's resistance to Francis's reforms could mean the end of the Catholic Church, theologian Vito Mancuso warns in the left-liberal daily La Repubblica: "No one knows how the struggle that started two years ago will end. But it's clear that the cardinals and clergymen who stand against Francis are an expression of what the Papacy has been over the centuries [with its absolute power]. ... But what will happen if Francis fails? I believe it would be a terrible blow for Catholicism. Because the enormous hopes this pope has awoken would be transformed into equally enormous disappointment. The Church's credibility would suffer a tremendous blow, which would be disastrous - if not completely ruinous. The failure of the pope would mean the end of the Church as an institution. I don't know if this is what the numerous cardinals, bishops and clergymen who are standing up to Francis really want. But they should be aware of what it means."
Reform pope risks same fate as Gorbachev
Pope Francis could suffer the same fate as former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the online magazine Slate worries: "Two years later Pope Francis no longer has the unanimous backing of his own Church. This looks very much like the 'Gorbachev syndrome'. The Soviet leader of the 1980s was more popular in the West than he was in the Communist Bloc. ... The Argentinian pope is now facing the same threat as Mikhail Gorbachev was not too long ago. He prefers slow and steady progress to brutal reforms. But does that not also increase the chances that the changes he's begun in the Church could be reversed, and will ultimately be a flash in the pan? Will his papacy be no more than a brief parenthesis? After Francis, will we revert to the absolute monarchies of yesteryear, to an absolute, hieratic, authoritarian papacy?"